How to Get a TEFL Qualification

By: Sarah Williams
A good TEFL qualification will include how to lesson plan, how to be an engaging teacher, how to effectively control a classroom, subjects to avoid discussing, grammar, phonetics, linguistics, literature, and more.

There are numerous qualifications that one can obtain in order to be considered qualified to teach English as a second language, teach English as a foreign language, and similar descriptions used for when English language instruction is given by a person, usually a native English speaker, not of the same nationality as the learner.

Practically, TEFL and TESOL qualifications can be used interchangeably; an employer who lists a TEFL as a mandatory requirement for new teachers will also accept a TESOL, and vice versa.

TEFL (or other) qualifications can be obtained by people of any age; there are many mature students obtaining TEFL qualifications as a means of sustaining a career break.

The qualification requirements vary a lot between different countries.  There may also be variations between different establishments within a particular country.  In some places, previous teaching experience and life skills may be treated just as importantly, and in others, whilst very useful for preparing one for the classroom, a formal qualification is not needed.

Some qualifications may only be recognized within a particular country, which is fine if you only plan on teaching within the one country.  If, however, you change countries and try somewhere new, you will need to complete an internationally recognized qualification.

Generally, most educational establishments prefer qualifications that contain a significant amount of teaching practice.  They typically also like to see observed and assessed teaching sessions, with feedback and comments provided to the new teacher.  Online courses may therefore be very convenient, but may not be as useful as traditional courses.  Some providers try to provide the best of both worlds, with online and distance learning elements combined with practical teaching time in the classroom.

A minimum of 100 hours is the standard for a widely recognized TEFL certificate. 

To start a TEFL course, an undergraduate degree is usually needed.  Even if training institutions do not require this, it is often a requirement for obtaining a work permit to teach English in many countries.  Non native English speakers will often be required to show evidence of a basic level of English language proficiency.

When looking online, with so many different places offering qualifications to teach English, it is very easy to become bogged down in the options.  Three important things to consider are:

1. How long will the course take?
2. How much will the course cost?
3. What are the job prospects at the end of it?

It is all very well obtaining a cheaper and quicker qualification, but if it does nothing to enhance employability, it is ultimately a waste of both time and money.  Likewise, an expensive provider does not necessarily make them the best, and a condensed, focused course can be as good as one that has been drawn out to take months.

You should also look at the skills, experience and qualifications of the trainers.  In addition to having a piece of paper at the end of the course, you also want to have learnt some useful and practical things to assist you in the classroom.

Another consideration is where you actually want to complete your TEFL qualification.  There will be courses available in your home country, as well as those overseas.  Do you want to obtain your qualification before travelling, or when you are already in your intended country of work? 
If you already have a particular establishment in mind, it is worth contacting them to ask which qualification they prefer.

Two of the most recognised TEFL qualifications are CELTA and the Cert.TESOL.  CELTA stands for the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, and is awarded by the prestigious Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.  Candidates are regulated, and admission, as well as award, is not guaranteed.  The Cert. Tesol, which stands for the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, is awarded by the renowned Trinity College in London, UK.  Trinity College is an internationally recognised examining body for English and the arts. 

The SIT TESOL Certificate, where SIT stands for the School for International Training, is another good option.  Their courses include the basics of classroom teaching, as well as workshops and practical teaching practice.

Most courses teach different language methodologies.  A good TEFL qualification will include how to lesson plan, how to be an engaging teacher, how to effectively control a classroom, subjects to avoid discussing, grammar, phonetics, linguistics, literature, and more.

There are literally thousands of providers offering TEFL training, so it would be impossible to list them all!  With some careful research and planning when choosing a provider, followed by the necessary work whilst completing the training, you can be TEFL qualified and on your way to a brand new and exciting teaching job in the country of your dreams.

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